Why the Food Safety “Letter” is so Important

The topic of Food safety has gained a huge amount of attention in NYC in the past few years. Many New Yorkers have questioned food safety in the five boroughs, and more specifically, what lawmakers are doing, or are not doing, to prevent restaurants from serving unsafe food.

According to a recent audit by the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, around 73% of serious food safety cases go unresolved because of an inconsistency in the enforcement of food safety codes. Comptroller DiNapoli said “Auditors found that food safety inspectors are identifying hundreds of establishments with serious violations, including food that has not been refrigerated properly or food that has been handled by sick workers. However, many of these food serving establishments faced no enforcement actions whatsoever.”

This failure to properly handle restaurant violations is extremely dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that 1 and 6 Americans come down with a foodborne illness each year. Annually, this results in 128,000 hospitalizations due to serious illness and 3,000 fatalities. These figures are troublingly high and could be prevented with the proper regulations and enforcement.

The Comptrollers’ office has urged the Department of Health (DOH) to identify patterns of code non-compliance and to act on violations.

While the DOH certainly has room for improvement in terms of food service oversight, there are systems currently in place that may help consumers avoid eating at unsafe establishments. The DOH requires all restaurants to place letter grades on their windows.

The Health Department inspects about 24,000 restaurants a year to monitor compliance with City and State food safety regulations. Since July 2010, the Health Department has required restaurants to post letter grades showing sanitary inspection results. Restaurants with a score between 0 and 13 points earn an A, those with 14 to 27 points receive a B and those with 28 or more a C. – NYC.gov

Foodborne illness are not a joke and should not be taken lightly. Restaurant owners must be held accountable when they fail to realize the importance of food safety. Hopefully, the Comptroller’s audit will urge the DOH to penalize restaurant owners who fail to make safety a top priority.

If you or a loved one has received a foodborne illness from an establishment in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan we may be able to help you seek compensation.

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